The Special Olympics dropped a Coronavirus vaccine mandate requirement for its athletes after Florida threatened to levy a $27.5 million fine in response.
Florida law forbids vaccine mandates. There must be an exemption process for religious or medical reasons. But the Special Olympics did not allow any exemptions for its upcoming games in Orlando, Florida.
Opponents of the mandates argued that participants in the games suffer from complex medical conditions due to their special needs, and that the vaccine may not be appropriate for certain conditions.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo further argued that because the vaccine does not stop the transmission of the Coronavirus, a mandate is inappropriate. The Florida Department of health calculated the fine amount by treating each of the 5,500 participants as a violation.
Governor Ron DeSantis commented on the victory, saying that Florida would welcome all disabled athletes to the games regardless of vaccination status. DeSantis made clear that disabled athletes would get the same protections that all other Floridians received during the pandemic.
Not surprisingly, there was pushback from the media. USA Today claimed that DeSantis panders to anti-vaxxers, racists and cro-magnons.
Despite the constant attacks, DeSantis has extremely high levels of support from Floridians. Only 9% of people living in the state indicated that the Coronavirus was their most important priority and 60% approved of DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic. There has been no noticeable public outrage in Florida regarding the governor’s policy toward vaccine mandates.
With the ban lifted, athletes that were previously unsure if they would be eligible will get to compete. The Special Olympics came out with a statement saying that they do not want to engage in a battle with Florida, but are more focused on the games themselves.
It was a high stakes battle for both DeSantis and Florida, as the games are expected to have a $61 million impact on the economy of Orlando and the surrounding areas. But Florida won in the end.
Expect DeSantis’ popularity to continue to grow among his base put another victory on the scoreboard for the governor.